Former U.S Women's soccer stars to take part in Boston University brain study

Former U.S Women's soccer stars to take part in Boston University brain study

Twenty years ago, they helped the U.S Women's soccer team win the World Cup -- and now, two former players are helping researchers at Boston University.

The athletes are taking part in a new study about soccer and the brain.

Brandi Chastain and Michelle Akers have been recruited by researchers at BU, which is home to the world-renowned CTE Center. CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma.

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The study, led by Dr. Robert Stern will look at how heading and collisions on the field effect the brain.

"This is the first study of women soccer players who are now at the age where we may be seeing the beginnings of a neurodegenerative disease," said Stern

Including U.S soccer stars Chastain and Akers, the study will follow 20 former high-level female soccer players.

"We are comparing these women who have a history of repetitive hits to the head with other same age women who don't have that kind of history," Stern explained.

The findings could lead to even more changes in a sport loved and played all over the country, including in Needham.

Coach Joe Wooding coaches a co-ed soccer camp and said the game has changed a lot over the last two decades.

"When I was a kid, brain injuries weren't considered, you just played," said Wooding.

The U.S. Soccer Federation rules prohibit players 10 years and under from heading the ball, and kids 11-13 can only head in practice, not games.

Right now there is not a lot of evidence to show the impact playing soccer has on the brain, but
researchers at BU are certainly hoping to change that.